As this summer comes to a close and our thoughts turn to summer 2015, Gretta Schifano author of the award winning travel blog Mums do travel shares her fabulous summer in Sicily with us. We think you might find a lot of reasons why Sicily should be on your bucket list, take a look.
We went to the Italian island of Sicily for our family summer holiday this year and had a lovely time exploring. There’s so much to see in Sicily: it’s the biggest island in the Mediterranean and is larger than Wales. It has a rich cultural history and however many times we go there I always want to go back. Kids are welcome everywhere and the food is delicious so it’s an easy place for families to enjoy. It does get very hot there in summer (it’s close to Africa) but as long as you have a pool or a beach to cool you down it’s fine.
Palermo is the main city in Sicily and we went there for a street food tour one day. Local guide Chiara took us to some food markets in the centre of the old city and we tried some delicious Sicilian dishes such as arancini (stuffed fried rice balls) and sfincione (a kind of spongy pizza created in medieval times for the toothless) washed down with icy granita. En route Chiara pointed out the main sights of the city and explained some of their history. My kids (11 and 15 years old at the time) barely noticed that they were sightseeing or walking because every few minutes we stopped to eat or drink something. It was an excellent way to see the city.
Most visitors to Sicily stick to the coast but I love going inland as well. My husband’s family is from an isolated town high up in the centre of Sicily called Mussomeli and we stayed there for a few days at the start of our trip. The landscape around the town is magnificent, almost lunar, and and the day-to-day existence of our Sicilian relatives is very different to how we live at home. For example, Mussomeli only has mains water connected every few days or so and the rest of the time you have to make do with whatever’s stored in your water tanks.
Verdura Golf & Spa Resort
We then spent a couple of nights at the wonderful Verdura Golf & Spa Resort near Sciacca on the south coast. Luxury tour operator Scott Dunn organised our stay at the Rocco Forte Resort and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Scott Dunn offers tailor-made luxury holidays to amazing destinations around the world. All four of us loved the whole experience at Verdura. We had a couple of adjoining rooms with views across the golf course to the sea. There’s a great Scott Dunn kids club, a 60m pool, bikes for guests to use around the resort and the food at the four restaurants was delicious. While we were there my son was thrilled to join in with a Juventus football training session, my husband had his first ever golf lesson while my daughter and I checked out the fabulous spa.
Our next stop was at an agriturismo near the new airport at Comiso in the south of the island. An agriturismo is a working farm where you can rent a room and they often have restaurants which are open to the public. The Agriturismo Valle di Chiaramonte has a lovely pool, free wifi, bikes for hire and a pair of ponies wandering about. We ate every night at the farm restaurant and the food was always delicious, especially the home-made ricotta ice-cream. We used the farm as a base to visit some of the Baroque towns nearby. Most of the buildings in this part of Sicily were destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1693 and were then reconstructed in the Baroque style using golden stone. Today these beautiful buildings are still standing and it feels like every town you come across is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The popular Inspector Montalbano TV series was filmed in this part of Sicily.
We spent the last week of our trip in a holiday house on the south coast near a small town called Sampieri. We booked through the holiday property rental website HouseTrip and it worked perfectly for us. The house was like a home from home and we made full use of the kitchen, washing machine, free wifi and lovely pool and garden. The owners lived nearby and were very kind and helpful – when we first arrived they even drove with my husband to show him where the best beaches and shops were.
Sicily is really easy to get to from the UK. It has four international airports: Palermo on the north coast, Catania near Mount Etna on the east coast, Trapani in the west and a new airport at Comiso in the south which has Ryanair flights from London Stansted.
We always hire a car from the airport when we go to Sicily. We shop around to find the best deal online and this time we booked an estate car with Dollar through Holiday Autos.
The Palermo Street Food Tour costs from 20 euros per person for a 75-minute Market Tour and is available to soloSicily customers.
Scott Dunn offers seven nights at Verdura from £1,679 per person based on a family of 2 adults and 2 children sharing 2 deluxe rooms on a half board basis. This price includes flights and private transfers.
Rooms at Agriturismo Valle di Chiaramonte cost 35 euros per person per night including breakfast in high season, children under three years old are free and from three to 12 years old are 15 euros per night when sharing a room with their parents.
The two bedroom property we stayed in cost £950 for seven nights in August booked through HouseTrip.
Disclosure: Gretta Schifano and her family were guests of Solo Sicily on the Palermo Street Food tour, Scott Dunn at the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort and Agriturismo Valle di Chiaramonte for the purposes of this review.
Gretta Schifano is a freelance family travel journalist and blogger who posts at www.mumsdotravel.com. Gretta has lived and worked in Italy and Spain and is now based in rural south-east England with her husband, children, dog and cat. Gretta previously worked as a BBC radio producer and can be found tweeting at @grettaschifano.